On Sunday, a controversial article about alcoholism and anonymity appeared in The New York Times Styles section. In it, NYT reporter David Colman used his first and last name when he revealed that he’s in recovery, which is a no-no in the world of Alcoholics Anonymous.
“…Anonymity is fading,” reveals a professor interviewed in the article, but A.A. is standing fast to the belief that people suffering from alcoholism can only feel safe in meetings if their identity is not revealed. Numerous people in the article said that’s doing a disservice to those in recovery and actually hindering the recovery movement.
I’m sure I’m not alone in welcoming the controversy. As I wrote in October, the physical effects of alcohol abuse alone are devastating, so anything that calls attention to recovery is A-OK in my book.
Here are some reactions to the article from a few people in the Malibu Beach Recovery Center community:
"Anonymity is fiercely protected in my world. I find that in my business connections, no one need know that I am in a 12-Step program. The whole point is that once inside the confines of an AA meeting, I wish to be free to speak about what is on my mind as it pertains to the speaker's topic, Big Book Reading, or other 12 and 12. Feeling SAFE and not-being-judged is of paramount importance to me.
"Each individual is different so their interpretation of AA and anonymity might be different than mine. I accept their choice, but would never want that choice to be removed from me. (So self-will!)
"The best part of any 12-Step program is that the attendees should feel that they are in a SAFE setting with folks that will, ultimately, identify with their feelings and processes. Non- AA's might be judgmental or not understand, thus stifling fragile, newly sober individuals.
"'Keep Coming Back' would have not appealed to me in early sobriety if I had to worry about my crying, yelling, using foul language - EXPRESSING myself if I were fearful of someone "taking notes" on me."
-- Mike N, Alumnus
"When people talk about it [getting sober] like it is just something that some of us go through, e.g. Rob Lowe, it seems to take the stigma out of it. It even becomes a topic at the dinner table and you find that you don`t have to go to an AA meeting to hear something that might help you in your own recovery. I am all for removing the second A.:
-- Dale C, Alumnus
"I used to cringe at revealing my alcoholism. Now, I just don't give a damn. I do, however, believe that we need to stick w/ the original 12 traditions because they have worked for this long and if it ain't broke; don't fix it."
-- Lori C., wife of alumnus
"Bill Wilson, the founder of AA, implies as much in a book called "Not God" written by Ernest Kurtz--Hazelden.org--publisher. 'Anonymity in time will be the effect of a world that didn't understand alcoholism, and true recovery will be available to anyone who wants it.'
"We are seeing the beginnings of it, but as long as we have the Danny Baldwin's of the world on Larry King professing to be sober, while back at his hotel there is an ounce of crack and a hooker, we have some way to go here with this.
"Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of our recovery---which basically means that in order to truly recover we need humility. Some clown who professes to be sober but is on tv, or film, attracting attention to the fact that he's a hot shit cause he's sober--then picks up (Charlie Sheen) doesn't help matters.
"Especially if there is some poor kid watching the whole fiasco who comes away thinking that recovery is a joke.
"In time, anonymity will be of a bygone era. But not right now."
-- Joe S., Malibu Beach Recovery Center professional